On the Animation of Idols

25 07 2008

Above: the golden idol solo from the ballet, La Bayadère

Plotinus uses almost the same examples in that place where, paraphrasing Hermes Trismegistus, he says that the ancient priests or Magi used to capture in statues and material sacrifices something divine and wonderful. He holds, moreover, with Hermes Trismegistus that through these materials they did not, properly speaking, capture divinities wholly separate from matter but deities who are merely cosmic… Hermes himself put together statues from herbs, trees, stones, and spices, which had within themselves, as he says, a natural force of divinity. He added songs resembling the heavenly bodies; he says the divinities take delight in such songs and so stay a longer time in the statues and help people or harm them.

-Marsilio Ficino, De vita coelitus comparanda





Plotinus on Beauty and Form

11 06 2008


Sylvie Guillem in Kitri’s Act I Solo (rehearsal)

Like a dancer taking up different poses, the Forms – and their Beauty- are only the figures in which the fecund simplicity of a pure movement expresses itself: a movement which engenders these forms at the same time as it goes beyond them, all the while remaining within itself. The experience of grace, as we saw, is like this too: “Beauty is nothing but fixated grace” [Leonardo da Vinci]. Every form, therefore, is derivative: “Form is only the trace of that which has no form: indeed, it is the latter which engenders form…”

-Pierre Hadot, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision





Omnia in omnibus modo suo

23 05 2008

Above: King Louis XIV as the Sun from the film, Le Roi Danse

Proclus give us precise examples of such ‘chains’ or ‘rays’ that link each level of existence through a particular archetypal quality.  For example, the ray which crystallises as ‘Apollo’ on the level of Ideas, will bring forth the ‘Sun-soul’ on the cosmic level, the physical Sun on the material, the King on the human, lion on the animal, heliotrope on the vegetative and gold on the mineral levels.  The key is sympathetic resonance, which allows even the most inanimate stone to partake of divine power.  This is the ‘occult property’, which can be worked with in theurgic ritual, as well as in more manipulative or ‘lower’ kinds of magic. 

-Angela Voss, from her introduction to an anthology of the writings of Marsilio Ficino

Below: Louis XIV as Apollo in the same movie





On Style

21 05 2008

Above: Allegra Kent and Edward Villella in George Balanchine’s Bugaku

 It is only a personal truth, but I believe that a dancer who tries to analyze the music, to interpret every note physically, to accentuate the obvious climaxes, will bypass what music is really about. It is a definition of time, and that can only be spontaneous. Moving with music is not an intellectual feat; it is an emotional, physical, sensual response to a specific moment in time…

One of Balanchine’s most important innovations in dance was to declare- and insist- that music be the first priority of the dancer… In Balanchine’s world, the dancers were in service to him, but everyone, including him, was in service to the music.

-Suzanne Farrell, former Balanchine ballerina, in her autobiography, Holding on to the Air
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On Inspiration

13 05 2008


Woman is the goddess. the poetess, the muse. That is why I have a company of beautiful girl dancers. I believe that the same is true of life, that everything a man does he does for his ideal woman. You live only one life and you believe in something and I believe in a little thing like that.

-George Balanchine

(Pictured above is Balanchine dancing the role of Don Quixote in his ballet of the same name, with his own “elusive muse”, Suzanne Farrell.)